Archive for the ‘exercise’ Category

by JENN SAVEDGE

A new study has found that slower runners live longer than those who push the pace

For the study, which was published recently in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology, researchers surveyed about 5,000 people, including 1,100 runners and 4,000 people who identified themselves as “non-runners.” Participants in the non-running group did not engage in any type of regular exercise or strenuous activity.

Those in the “running” group were split into three groups depending upon how far, how fast and how often they ran. The study participants were men and women of various ages who were considered relatively healthy.

Researchers checked back with the group after 10 years and found (not surprisingly) that the runners had longer lifespans than their sedentary peers. But what was surprising was the longevity difference among the runners. Those with the lowest rate of death were the light joggers, folks who ran roughly two to three times per week for about 1 to 2.4 miles per session at a speed self-described as “slow.”

Next in line in terms of lifespan were the moderate runners, followed by the speedsters, who tied with the non-runners for highest mortality rate. That’s right, those who ran hard and fast had the same lifespan as those who never left the couch.

http://www.mnn.com/health/fitness-well-being/blogs/slow-running-better-for-your-health

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By Morgan Manella

Companies that want their employees to exercise more might want to skip the promise of prizes or pats on the back. Instead, a new study shows, giving someone a financial incentive and then threatening to take it away might work better.

Workplace wellness programs are gaining popularity, and more than 80% of large employers are now using some form of financial incentive to increase physical activity, according a new study published in the Annals of Internal Medicine. This comes after the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported that more than half of adults in the United States do not reach the minimum recommended level of physical activity to see benefits to their health.

The study gave 281 people a 7,000 step-a-day goal that they were to keep up during a 13-week challenge. Researchers tested three financial incentive designs.

One group received $1.40 each day that they hit the 7,000-step goal. A second group was entered into a daily lottery, but participants were only eligible to collect a reward if they reached 7,000 steps the day before. The third group was given $42 upfront each month, and $1.40 was taken away each day the goal was not met. The control group received no money but did get some daily feedback.

The researchers found that the possibility of losing money led people to exercise more than the other incentives. It resulted in a 50% relative increase in the average amount of days participants achieved their physical activity goals.

“People are more motivated by losses than gains, and they like immediate gratification,” said study author, Dr. Mitesh Patel, an assistant professor in the Perelman School of Medicine and at the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania. “They want to be rewarded today, not next year or far into the future.”

The findings suggest that the way a financial incentive is framed is important to how effective it is — and it can influence the success of health promotion programs, according to the study.

“There is a large body of evidence in behavioral economics that has looked at ways of framing,” Patel said. “It’s the way our brains are wired that we tend to avoid wanting to lose things more than the benefit we get from gaining them. It makes people think like the money is theirs to lose from day one. By having skin in the game, it makes people more motivated, and we think we can leverage that in these types of programs.”

The study participants had an average BMI of 33.2, which classifies a person as obese, according to Patel.

“That is significant because most employers or wellness programs are designed to target people that are already motivated and people that tend to engage,” he said. “We wanted to target overweight and obese people that are more sedentary and have the most to benefit from these programs.”

In most programs, many participants will drop out quickly and only the motivated will stay involved, Patel said.

“In ours, we were pleasantly surprised that 96% stayed,” he said.

He attributes such high engagement rates in this study to the combination of design and technology. “The main takeaway is that the design of the incentive is critical to its success,” he said.

“Our study can help them [wellness programs] to design these incentives in a way that can be more effective and engage employees that have more to benefit, especially those that are obese, and to take into account that simple changes in the way we frame incentives can have a dramatic outcome in how we influence adults to change their behavior.”

http://www.cnn.com/2016/02/17/health/financial-incentive-exercise-goals/index.html

Poor physical fitness in middle age might be associated with a smaller brain size later on, according to a study published in an online issue of Neurology.

Brains shrink as people age, and the atrophy is related to cognitive decline and increased risk for dementia, a researcher said, and exercise reduces that deterioration and cognitive decline.

In this study, more than 1,500 people at an average age of 40 and without dementia or heart disease took a treadmill test. Twenty years later, they took another test, along with MRI brain scans. The study found those who didn’t perform as well on the treadmill test — a sign of poor fitness — had smaller brains 20 years later.

Among those who performed lower, people who hadn’t developed heart problems and weren’t using medication for blood pressure had the equivalent of one year of accelerated brain aging. Those who had developed heart problems or were using medication had the equivalent of two years of accelerated brain aging.

Their exercise capacity was measured using the length of time participants could exercise on the treadmill before their heart rate reached a certain level. Researchers measured heart rate and blood pressure responses to an early stage on the treadmill test, which provides a good picture for a person’s fitness level, according to the study author Nicole Spartano, a postdoctoral fellow at the Boston University School of Medicine.

Physical fitness is evolving as a significant factor related to cognitive health in older age. A study published in May 2015 found that higher levels of physical fitness in middle-aged adults were associated with larger brain volumes five years later.

This study shows that for people with heart disease, fitness might be particularly important for prevention of brain aging, Spartano said.

“We found that poor physical fitness in midlife was linked to more rapid brain aging two decades later,” she said. “This message may be especially important for people with heart disease or at risk for heart disease, in which we found an even stronger relationship between fitness and brain aging.”

The researchers also found that people with higher blood pressure and heart rate during exercise were more likely to have smaller brain sizes 20 years later. People with poor physical fitness usually have higher blood pressure and heart rate responses to low levels of exercise compared to people who exercise more, Spartano said

“From other studies, we know that exercise training programs that improve fitness may increase blood flow and oxygen to the brain over the short term,” Spartano said. “Over the course of a lifetime, improved blood flow may have an impact on brain aging and prevent cognitive decline in older age.”

The study suggests promotion of physical fitness during middle age is an important step toward ensuring healthy brain aging.

“The broad message,” Spartano said, “is that health and lifestyle choices that you make throughout your life may have consequences many years later.”

http://www.cnn.com/2016/02/15/health/poor-fitness-smaller-brain/index.html

By Carina Storrs

If you are intensifying your running regimen in hopes of losing weight, you might be running around in circles: There is a limit to how many calories we can burn through exercise, a new study suggests.

The grim message comes from a small study of a group of 332 adults living in the United States, Jamaica and Africa, some of them more sedentary and some more active. A team of researchers measured their activity level for seven days using an accelerometer, similar to the kind in the Fitbit and other wearable devices, and also measured the number of calories the participants burned over the week.

The researchers found that the participants who moved more also burned more calories, but only up to a point. The most active people hit a plateau and did not burn any more calories than their less-active peers.

Although the researchers did not look at the specific activities that participants were doing, the level on the accelerometer at which calorie burning peters out would be achieved “if you’re walking a couple miles a day, like to work and back, taking the stairs instead of the elevator and trying to exercise a couple times a week,” said Herman Pontzer, associate professor of anthropology at Hunter College, and lead author of the study, which was published on Thursday in the journal Current Biology.

The study is in step with a growing body of research suggesting that burning a bunch of calories is a less realistic weight loss strategy than we might have thought, or hoped. “We can’t push the calories out [value] around too much,” Pontzer said. “Our bodies work very hard to keep it the same.”

It might be time to shift that standard public health message: To lose weight, simply exercise more.

“We would say that ‘If you want to lose weight, you probably ought to focus on changing your diet and watching how much you eat.’ Exercise can help and it’s really important [for health in general], but they are two different tools,” Pontzer said.

The challenge of trying to lose weight just by exercising more is no secret to some clinicians. “This study actually explains a phenomenon that I see quite commonly,” said Dr. Holly F. Lofton, director of the Medical Weight Management Program at NYU Langone Medical Center.

“I see patients training for a marathon and they ask me, ‘Why am I not losing weight?’ ” even though they are exercising more and eating the same number of calories, Lofton said.

People who are increasing their exercise within a less ambitious range, such as going from being sedentary to walking or going from walking to jogging a few miles a day, will probably increase the number of calories they burn proportionally. But “over time, as you do higher levels of activity, you don’t increase your energy expenditure [or calories burned] in a linear way,” she said.

The phenomenon is also in play on the flipside, in terms of calories we take in. “We tend to think that if [patients] eat less than 800 calories, the body’s metabolism shuts down to a level that weight loss slows down quite a bit,” Lofton said.

There are tricks to ratchet up the calorie burn from your workout if you do fall into that higher level of activity.

“If you run all the time, try biking or swimming, and if you bike, try running or swimming, because using different muscles can increase your energy expenditure again,” Lofton said. “It may also be possible to decrease and then increase your activity again and get an increase [in calorie burning],” she said.

And if you think you can necessarily rely on your Fitbit or other device to tell you how many calories you burned, think again: We probably burn proportionally fewer calories as we exercise above a certain level of intensity.

“Activity monitors are going to be wrong at predicting energy expenditure because they aren’t incorporating this adaptation,” Pontzer said.

There’s a hint of good news from the current study. The plateau in how many calories participants burned was higher for those with more body fat. “Body fat is sort of a long-term signal to the body about how active you have to be and how much food is available, so your body might burn more calories,” Pontzer said.

Each of us probably maxes out at a slightly different calorie-burning plateau, Pontzer said. In addition to body fat, it could depend on metabolism, hormone levels, muscle mass and genetic differences.

Pontzer and his colleagues took a close look at the types of calories the participants in the study were burning. They found that the participants did actually continue to burn more and more so-called activity calories as they exercised more, but above a “breaking point,” Pontzer said, their bodies compensated by burning fewer resting calories, which are used for carrying out basic biological functions.

It is as if we have a set number of calories in the bank that our bodies let us burn. If we blow too much of that allowance doing physical activity, our bodies may keep us from spending too many calories doing things like ramping up our immune system or stockpiling reproductive resources.

This strategy may be pretty primitive. “We think this is a really common evolutionary adaptation that all animals use to keep from outstripping their resources and to keep from starving. Your body is listening to your environment and setting an energy expenditure level it can maintain,” Pontzer said.

Pontzer first started to suspect that a system of checks and balances might be in place to control calorie output when he was studying populations of hunter-gatherers in Tanzania.

“The women walk six miles a day, the men walk 10 miles; they are super, super active. It’s impressive when you’re out there with them, and yet their energy expenditures aren’t any different than folks who live much more cushy, sedentary lifestyles,” he said. Pontzer joined up with Amy Luke at Loyola University Chicago and her team, which carried out all the measurements for the current study, to get a better idea what was going.

If it is true that people and animals have evolved to divvy up our finite calorie balance between physical activity and everything else, “we hypothesize that maybe this is one of the things that makes exercise so healthy,” Pontzer said.

It may keep our bodies from spending too much energy on things such as immune function, which could in turn prevent inflammation from going haywire and leading to problems such as heart disease.

http://www.cnn.com/2016/01/28/health/weight-loss-exercise-plateau/index.html